The Durham MBA has taken a tropical twist, spending a week in the seaside town of Weligama (pictured) on the palm-fringed south coast of Sri Lanka.
I’m part of a group of 18 MBA students who are researching various different topics relevant to the region from the perspective of international development as part of one of our course modules. I’m looking at the cinnamon industry, a sector of some importance to the national economy and dependent on some very skilled, traditional production techniques.
We’re assessing the possible application of Fair trade principles for local farmers but it has become increasingly clear that low worker wages and low prices - the key issues Fair trade addresses - are not significant problems. A bigger issue is the social stigma attached to the cinnamon peeler job prevents producers attracting large enough numbers to willing employees to scale their businesses.
It’s also become apparent that behind the idyllic, sun-kissed sands, there is an underbelly of corruption, bureaucracy and resistance to change. Politicians of somewhat dubious intentions hamper the ability of many local business owners from making improvements, and crazy taxes and red tape that put off foreign investment.
It’s our final day in Sri Lanka today and any efforts towards our respective projects have been forced down the agenda in favour of a cricket match against the local town's side (I don't rate our chances very highly) and an afternoon frolicking in the sea and slurping mojitos at the stunningly beautiful beach at nearby Marissa.
When we get back to the UK the MBA dissertation period begins. We are each individually required to conduct some research on a topic of our choosing and submit a lengthy report in early September. I’ve decided to look at category management
and more specifically its adoption within local authorities. My early forays into understanding category management have uncovered differences in what the term means and a distinct lack of coverage in academic circles. I hope to provide an update in my next blog.